When both trailing arms failed on the No. 42 Target Chevrolet Monday night at Daytona International Speedway, Montoya’s car slid out of control, into a jet dryer and ignited 200 gallons of jet fuel.
“It’s kind of interesting, a week or five days later looking back, there’s actually a shot that shows the impact,” Montoya said. “I’m pretty lucky to be honest.
“People were kind of amazed that I walked out of that one. Honestly, everybody was being pretty amazed. Everyone has been really supportive and everything. The bright side is you can joke about it.”
Montoya felt a vibration. Initially, he thought the gear box broke. Montoya shifted gears, but didn’t feel the response he was expecting. So he radioed to his crew, “I think there’s something wrong,” but the crew found nothing in the pits. Montoya returned to the track on Lap 160, “had a problem with the car and that was it.”
Montoya says he was concerned as the driver side of his car angled into the jet dryer “I was like, ‘Oh, this is going to hurt.’ But it wasn’t too bad. … It was a little flames for a second, but it wasn’t much. It didn’t even get hot. I saw the flames everywhere and said, ‘I better get out of this fast’.”
Montoya’s only injury was a bruised foot.
Crew chief Chris Heroy said when one of the trailing arms – a suspension piece connected to the rear end housing — broke on the car, the other one followed. Heroy said NASCAR didn’t have an issue with the trailing arms that were on the car.
Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon says there are a lot of “lessons to be learned” from the accident. He’s grateful that “nobody was seriously injured” in the incident but acknowledged that “failure on a race car” was to blame.
“I think that to me is where NASCAR through their inspection process, they always are learning and we’re always pushing the limits,” Gordon said. “Obviously, there was something there that was causing the truck arms to fail. I think that’s probably where you’re going to see coming up here in the future before we get back to the next restrictor plate track if not sooner of looking at the structure of those trailing arms to be sure.”
For Montoya, Monday’s accident provided a lesson in team building with his new men.
“It wasn’t the start of the season that we wanted,” said Montoya, who finished 36th, “but as a team it was a very good team bonding experience.”